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WSU Small Fruit Horticulture Program Update

Volume 10 Issue 9


It’s been another busy year for the program. Like 2020, we have sorely missed the grower and industry interactions that were more prevalent when we were holding workshops, conferences, and in-person meetings. Regardless, the program has had another busy 2021 season with a record number of field trials. As we work on data analysis and interpretation, we hope to deliver important information to the grower community in the coming winter months. Below is a short update on the research activities by each of the members in the program. 


Lisa W. DeVetter, Program Lead

  • Working in the field with my program, growers, and collaborating scientists is one of the best aspects of my job, so I was very pleased to support blueberry pollination trials with my program, participate in a few field days, visit with other programs across the state and region, and see new programs at WSU and USDA start.
  • I co-authored a guide on machine harvesting blueberries for the fresh market – it should soon be available for free through WSU Extension.
  • If you use non-degradable or biodegradable plastic mulch, check out my website. The content on the site was developed by several students in my program and other programs we collaborate closely with. Link:
  • Our collaborative blueberry cold hardiness project underwent beta testing this spring and should be available for a wider grower audience soon!
  • Grant season is starting, so please let me know if you have key issues or concerns. We plan to continue pollination, cold hardiness, and mulch research, as well as support plant breeding efforts.
  • We’ll have two new graduate students join the program next year working on hydromulching in small fruit systems and optimizing pollination.


Sean Watkinson, Scientific Assistant

  • As a scientific assistant, I have the opportunity to help out with all the projects being conducted within our program. This spring and summer we’ve spent a lot of time in Whatcom and Skagit counties completing tasks such as counting pollinators and blueberry flowers, harvesting fruit and collecting fruit quality measurements to name just a few.
  • Another important task that I work on is plot maintenance. Even with the dry and dusty conditions that we experienced this summer, the weeds still seem to grow well, so we work hard all summer long to keep our research trials clean and our plants happy and healthy!

Maxime Eeraerts, Postdoc

  • My main focus is on organizing and executing the blueberry SCRI project in which we want to optimize the use of honey bees for pollination of blueberry in the United States.
  • In a cool side-project, I also sampled wild pollinators (solitary bees and bumble bees) in Washington blueberry fields in which we found a great diversity of 9 bumble bee species and 5 solitary bee species!
  • In the coming months I will be crunching the numbers and data of the SCRI project so that we can inform the growers of the results and main findings of the first year of this project.

Qianwen Lu, PhD candidate

  • Currently, my research focuses on the impacts of fertilizer source and rate on raspberry plant and soil health. Exploring both plant and soil variables is the best part of my research project.
  • The utilization of bio-inoculants (e.g., mycorrhizae) could contribute to greater plant growth and enhance soil health as well. I studied this and the results regarding the impacts of mycorrhizal fungal colonization from bio-inoculants and fertilizer source on raspberry growth will be available soon.
  • I am also exploring how fertilizer amendments impact chemical, physical, and biological components of soil health in raspberry systems.

Brenda Madrid, Second-Year Master Student

  • The main focus of my research is to evaluate the effect of potentially degrading products on the surface deterioration and visible in-soil degradation of different plastic soil-biodegradable mulches (BDMs) under our climatic conditions which experience slower degradation rates.
  • Another component of my research is working with Drs. Lisa DeVetter and Jessica Goldberger to identify the risks and uncertainties of incorporating polyethylene (PE) mulch and BDMs into raspberry production systems.
  • In the past year, I also studied the impact of growing the June-bearing cultivar, Sweet Sunrise, using an increased planting density and PE mulch to identify if it would be a profitable production system.

Xuechun “May” Wang, Second-Year Master Student

  • My research includes studying mulch type effects in ‘Albion’ day-neutral strawberry production, understanding how mulches impact splash dispersal of Botrytis cinerea (grey mold) in strawberry, and assessing the feasibility of double-cropping systems with strawberry and lettuce in plasticulture.
  • I am very happy to serve farmers and have opportunities to study new materials such as soil biodegradable mulches and new agricultural systems such as double cropping.
  • I am also a team member of a soil biodegradable and plastic mulch extension group. If you are interested in learning about soil biodegradable mulches in fumigated systems, please check our website:

Emma Rogers, Research Assistant

  • I have mostly been helping out on our extensive blueberry pollination project, where I’ve helped collect data throughout the field season. This includes flower counts, pollinator counts, berry and seed counts, as well as filming honey bee forager activity.
  • I have also assisted the graduate students in their research, helping with strawberry and raspberry harvest, as well as lab work exploring nutrient and metabolite levels in raspberry.
  • Interacting with growers, students, and researchers alike has been a highlight of the job. Getting to call the blueberry fields my office isn’t too bad either.


Rachael Schick

  • This summer I have been assisting with the blueberry pollination project by collecting data in the fields and lab. In addition to blueberries, I have helped the graduate students with their respective projects studying strawberries and raspberries and soil health.
  • Learning about fruit farming systems has been the highlight of my summer and I plan to continue learning and exploring this field even more.
  • I also work with the WSU Vegetable Horticulture program studying grafted melons, sweet potatoes, cabbage, apples, and mulch technologies.